Excerpt: Along the jagged coast of Maine, prehistoric shell middens mark spots where Maine Indians feasted on clams, shells and other seafood, then tossed aside the remains. “Midden,” to archaeologists, means the waste left behind by long-gone humans. In practice, though, these ancient garbage heaps contain a treasure trove of data that can shed light on Maine’s early environment and long-ago residents. But the 2,000 known middens in Maine are seriously threatened by pressures, including rising sea levels, beach erosion and real estate development. In order to protect the state’s cultural heritage despite those pressures, a University of Maine project is aiming to define the current extent of the middens and develop a network of citizen scientists to monitor and protect them now and in the years to come.
“The paleo information is priceless,” Alice Kelley, an associate research professor at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, said. “The bones and the things that are there are basically our only record of what was living in the western Gulf of Maine from 4,000 years ago to the present.”
Source: Curtis, A., 2017. Citizen scientists may help save ancient Maine shell heaps. Bangor Daily News, 15 November 2017.